Three consecutive months of job growth indicates that the economy has finally reached a point of stability, after gaining more jobs in the month of February.
The private sector added 227,000 jobs with marked growth in professional services, health care and manufacturing and the unemployment rate was steady at 8.3 percent, unchanged from January. Though the economy is far from out of the woods, growth is strong enough to absorb hiccups like rising oil prices and a precarious housing market.
“We’re sitting on two years of monthly job gains so the bottom line is that this economy is growing and does not appear to be at all at risk for a double dip or another downturn,” said Brian Wesbury, chief economist for First Trust Portfolios.
While rising gas prices — exacerbated by mounting tensions in Iran — pose a threat to the growing but vulnerable economy, increased earnings and spending seems to indicate that consumers can absorb the additional costs with minimal impact on economic growth.
“People will go on with their lives. They have to get things done and they’ll continue to do that as long as they get the gasoline. They’ll grumble about paying the price but they will pay the price and they will move on,” said John Silvia, chief economist for Wells Fargo.
Even so, other factors like the backlog of foreclosed homes driving down home prices, pose a major long-term concern. Between the lagging housing market and rising gas prices growth is slower than what it should be and could slow down even more.
“It doesn’t mean a recession, but it does mean continued sub par economic growth,” Silvia said.
This recession has been unique in that the economy has not rebounded as it has in past recessions.
More serious concerns are structural impediments like long-term unemployment and inflation.
The number of long-term unemployed – those who have been without a job for more than 27 weeks – remained relatively unchanged at 5.4 million, with the chronically unemployed making up 42.6 percent of the total number of people without jobs
Inflation poses another concern as the Fed talks about the possibility of a third round of quantitative easing – though that seems less likely to happen after today’s positive jobs numbers were released. Wesbury says the Fed has done its job and may flood the market with too much money and drive down the price of the dollar if it doesn’t back off.
Still, others are more confident in the direction the economy is headed and think we should stay the course. Policies of the Federal Reserve and Obama administration are working slowly, but they do seem to be having some impact. John Herrmann, founder of Herrmann Forecasting, says now isn’t the time to drive down spending and jack-up interest rates.
“Mainstreet is benefiting from the policies of President Obama and from the monetary policy stance of Ben Bernanke,” he said.
“Federal monetary and fiscal policy has to continue to nurture and encourage and promote the healing in the labor market and the healing in the economy, so it’s too early to take your foot off the gas pedal.”
Today’s report also included positive revisions with December jobs increasing from 203,000 to 223,000 while January jobs were revised from 243,000 to 284,000.